Genetic material found at crime scenes could help narrow a search for suspects even when there's no match to DNA records, using new technology to be used for the first time by Australian law enforcement.
The Australian Federal Police says its new "massively parallel sequencing" DNA analysis technology can help investigators predict the gender, ancestry, eye, and soon hair colour of potential offenders from unmatched genetic evidence found at crime scenes.
It will allow investigators to generate leads from DNA evidence where there's no known match on law enforcement databases, and could also be used to exclude someone as a person of interest.
The genetic analysis could also be used in missing person cases and in identifying unknown human remains.
Traditional DNA profiling that examines unique length variations in the human genome can identify a match to a sample of DNA.
But the more advanced technique examines the sequence and compares it to a reference library of ancient human populations to provide results the AFP says are "more informative".
The new technology is being tested for accuracy before it's used in any forensic investigations, which will be a first for Australian law enforcement.
AFP forensics lead scientist Paul Roffey says in the future the technique could be used to identify other traits such as age, weight and height.
There's also potential to provide "detail predictions for facial metrics such as distance between the eyes, eye, nose and ear shape, lip fullness, and cheek structure", Dr Roffey says.
Advances in DNA analysis technology can lead to breakthroughs in previously cold cases through reanalysis.
Last week, NSW Police announced they had tracked down a man they believe responsible for a spate of sexual assaults in Sydney that occurred in 2003 and 2004 by reanalysing old DNA samples from crime scenes.
In that case, forensic scientists used Y-chromosomal DNA analysis to track the accused man down.
There were no matches for his DNA in law enforcement records but he was identified due to a match with a close relative who was on the database.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.